In honor the 25th anniversary of the movie Major League, I am attempting to chronicle the events of the movie from the perspective of a sports blogger.
Click here if you missed part one.
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here
Indians fans surprise me sometimes.
I lost my ability to be disappointed by the team a long time ago. In order to be disappointed, you must have some hope of success, and what have the Indians ever done to give their fans hope?
Yet some fans still believe that the team will succeed. Perhaps these fans are younger than I am, or newer to their fandom. Perhaps they have not had as many chances to have the hope beaten out of them.
To these hopeful die hards, this off-season has been disappointing. They apparently expected something better than “complete disaster,” even though disaster is what the Indians have traditionally done best.
Let’s review how things have gone since the end of the 1988 season:
The most significant event of course, was the death of owner Donald Phelps. And while it is certainly a tragedy that he died, looking purely in terms of the Indians future prospects, that might not turn out to be such a bad thing.
Note: I am sure that despite trying my best to word the above paragraph as carefully as possible, I will still receive some backlash for it. I imagine that some people will not take kindly any implication that the death of a beloved civic leader is a good thing. Hey, nobody ever said it was easy being an Indians fan!
The second most significant events were the free agency departures of Julio Franco and Ron Kittle. These departures do not bode well for the 1989 Indians, because allowing two of your better players to depart without compensation is generally not a good way to improve a team.
In some cases, you can make an argument for “addition by subtraction,” but that usually only applies when the players in question are clubhouse cancers who negatively affected chemistry. By almost all accounts, both Franco and Kittle were good clubhouse guys.
The only negative thing I can say about them is that they didn’t want to be members of the Indians for one second longer than they had to be. And can you really blame them for that?
The “If only Donald was here!” crowd is claiming that Phelps’ death essentially guaranteed Franco and Kittle’s departures. They speculate that players don’t want any part of an uncertain ownership situation.
There are a couple of problems with this claim:
1. The ownership situation is not uncertain. You may not like the idea of Rachel Phelps as the team owner, but she has been adamant that she is not selling the team. (I base this on quotes like, “No, I’m not selling,” and “I plan to be the owner of the Cleveland Indians for a long time.”) There doesn’t seem to be anything uncertain about that at all.
2. Plenty of free agents left the Indians even when Howard Phelps was here. Heck, it was a rare offseason when a free agent didn’t leave. It seems that most free agents want to be paid top dollar (Never a Phelps specialty) and like to play for winning team. (Another area where the Indians have been a bit lacking)
The 1988 Indians were not a good team, and losing two good players makes it very likely that the Indians will be finishing in last place next season. But isn’t that just business as usual?
Instead of being disappointed by the Indians, why not try to enjoy the team? Because while they’re likely going to be horrible, it appears as if they’re going to be horrible in a way that nobody has ever seen before.
After being unable to retain their expensive free agents, it’s almost like the Indians have adopted a revolutionary new approach to player acquisition. Instead of signing the players that everyone wanted, they’ve signed players who nobody else wanted.
Most people assume that the Indians executives are either cheap or really bad at their jobs. (I’m certainly not ruling out the possibility) But maybe, just maybe, they’re actually outsmarting everyone else. Maybe they’ve come to the conclusion that they can’t possibly compete with the other teams financially, so instead they’re finding players whose skills aren’t as valued on the open market.
It’s possible that they’re evaluating these players using metrics different from the other teams Instead of traditional statistics like RBIs and wins, maybe they’re basing their acquisitions on some other criteria.
Or maybe they just have no idea what they’re doing. It’s hard to tell at this point.
So who are some of these undervalued players that the Indians are bringing to camp?
Remember how much fun it was to watch Jake Taylor hobble around on two bad knees two years ago? Well good news: He’s back! He spent last season in Mexico where he hopefully discovered a miracle cure for not having any knee cartilage left.
And if you’re a big fan of home runs and strikeouts, you’ll surely love the team’s new slugger Pedro Cerrano. (Yes, I had to look up how to spell that. This will probably be a recurring theme of the season) He’s Cuban which means nobody knows much about him, but supposedly he’s got a ton of power…when he makes contact. At the very least, he should energize the city’s “sizable” Cuban population. People might soon start calling Memorial Stadium “Little Havana.”
So sure, you can be disappointed if you want. But as far as I’m concerned, the Indians have met – and are set up to continue to meet – all of the expectations I have for them.